Saints often come in pairs or triples; it is remarkable when one meets multiple in his or her life. Such is the case of Saint Louise de Marillac, who was advised by both Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Vincent de Paul. Born in 1591, she was the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy French nobleman. She grew up cared for by Dominican nuns, receiving an excellent education, and, at her father's death when she was 12, learned skills of medicine and management. She became increasingly devout and desired to enter a religious community; however, she was rejected by the Capuchin nuns in Paris. Devastated, her spiritual director at the time consoled her, and her family encouraged her to get married, which she did. Her husband was the young and ambitious secretary to Queen Marie of France, and they had one son. For ten years, Louise persisted in her vocation of marriage, but when she her husband was dying, she found her real calling in pursuing religion. It was then that she was consoled and advised by St. Francis de Sales.
After the death of her husband, she took to forming a religious order; her guidance came from St. Vincent de Paul. Together, they came to found a community, the Daughters of Charity. This permanent institution put haphazard works of charity onto a stable footing, forming hospitals, child-care institutions, homes for the aged and infirm, centers for the care of prisoners and those on the battlefield, psychiatric centers, and nursing homes. They were unique and unprecedented in being mobile, unlike other female religious institutions at the time. The secret to her and the Daughters' success was in combining contemplation and activity. She would herself write, "Certainly it is the great secret of the spiritual life to abandon to God all that we love by abandoning ourselves to all that He wills." Indeed, though she was a social worker saint, she had a formidable mystical and meditative sense, which exists in her writings. She died in 1660 and was canonized in 1934.
Take heed from the life of this marvelous saint, a hidden mystic and friend of two stalwart saints. Truly a heroic one among the heavenly court, Saint Louise's life, presented in this biography, will inspire in you a desire to do all you can to serve the Lord your God.
- Sr. Vincent Regnault, DC
- TAN Books
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